California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sacramento
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 34-2011-00102428-CU-WT-GDS Rudolph R. Loncke, Judge.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Beyer, Pongratz & Rosen, Stephen G. Pongratz, Etan E. Rosen and Ralph C. Lee for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Hanson Bridgett, Jahmal T. Davis and Adam W. Hofmann for Defendant and Respondent.
In this action for disability discrimination and wrongful termination, we affirm a summary judgment in favor of the defendant employer. We do so largely because the plaintiff employee’s alleged disability-an inability to work under a particular supervisor because of anxiety and stress related to the supervisor’s standard oversight of job performance-is not a disability recognized in the California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.).
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Summary Judgment Standard of Review
“The aim of the summary judgment procedure is to determine, through the use of declarations and evidence disclosed in discovery, whether the parties possess conflicting evidence on a material issue that requires a trial to sort out-in short, whether a triable issue of material fact exists.” (Yanez v. Plummer (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 180, 185-186 [164 Cal.Rptr.3d 309] (Yanez).)
In reviewing a summary judgment, we first identify the issues framed by the pleadings since it is these allegations to which the motion must be directed. (Rio Linda Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 732, 734-735 [60 Cal.Rptr.2d 710].) Summary judgment is properly granted to a defendant who shows that an element of the plaintiff’s cause of action cannot be established, unless the plaintiff sets forth specific
facts showing a triable issue of material fact as to that element. (Yanez, supra, 221 Cal.App.4th at p. 186.)
“We review independently from the trial court the summary judgment papers. We do not resolve factual issues but ascertain whether there are any to resolve.” (Yanez, supra, 221 Cal.App.4th at p. 186.)
The Complaint’s Causes of Action
The complaint alleges four causes of action under FEHA (§ 12900 et seq.): disability discrimination; failure to engage in the interactive process and make reasonable accommodation for the disability; retaliation for assertion of disability rights; and disability-related wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
Additionally, the complaint alleges two causes of action under California’s Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act (CFRA; §§ 12945.1, 12945.2): discrimination for using CFRA leave; and CFRA-related wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
The summary judgment papers show the following undisputed facts.
In September 2007, defendant Sutter Medical Foundation (Sutter) hired plaintiff Michaelin Higgins-Williams (plaintiff) as a clinical assistant in Sutter's shared services department (the Department or the Shared Services Department). The Department’s clinical assistants work as “floaters” doing patient intake.
Since 2007, Norma Perry has been Sutter’s regional manager overseeing the Shared Services Department. From 2007 through 2011, Debbie Prince was plaintiff’s immediate supervisor in the Department, and reported to Perry.
In June 2010, plaintiff reported to her treating physician, Alexander Chen, M.D., that she was stressed because of interactions at work with human resources and her manager. Dr. Chen diagnosed ...